Are you going to reach the milestone age of 17 this year? Really excited about getting behind the wheel? Going where you want, when you want, without mum or dad having to take you – what bliss! However – a warning! If you do intend to start learning soon after you reach 17, don’t delay, as the rules about provisional licences, driving ages and the practical test are certain to change in the near future.
Ever since 2007, rumours have been circulating about upcoming changes in the UK’s driver licensing law, one of the main ones being that the minimum driving age could be increased to 18. In February of last year, the matter was talked about in Parliament but the MPs couldn’t agree – no change there then – so the changes were temporarily put on hold. That didn’t mean nothing was happening behind the scenes of course.
Pilot driving test trial
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has expressed concern that inexperienced drivers are not being properly prepared for driving on motorways and faster roads. Because of those concerns, from April this year in 20 selected areas of the country a revised practical driving test will be trialled. The object is to better prepare novice drivers for driving on such roads when they finally pass the test. Some of the procedural changes will be major for both instructors and students:
- The trial test will still be of approximately 40 minutes duration but it will include 20 minutes when the driver has to follow the guidance of a sat nav.
- The three-point turn is to be dropped, as is the traditional reversing manoeuvre around a corner. These are likely to be replaced by a reversing manoeuvre out of a bay and a parking exercise.
- Candidates to answer safety-based theory questions while they are driving.
It is hoped that 3000 learner drivers will take the trial test before the end of the year. Analysis of the results will then be conducted and if the trial is a success the new practical test could start in England, Scotland and Wales early in 2016. If you live in Northern Ireland, it’s probable that similar changes will occur there after receiving approval by Stormont.
Learner drivers will be able to find out from their instructors whether or not they are in an area where the pilot test is being used. A driver that passes the pilot test will be a legitimate qualified driver regardless of what happens with regard to future changes.
It is clear that other changes, most likely relating to age, may well be on the way for provisional licence applicants. How long a learner will have to drive before being allowed to take the practical test could also be specified.
The fine detail of the changes is still unclear and won’t be until the legislation is finalised. There may well be changes other than those outlined here, so if you are likely to be affected keep an eye on the news.
Last modified: 22nd December 2015